HAZARD—During the jury selection process of a civil case involving a Perry County School District employee being tried in Perry County Circuit Court last month, another district employee may have inadvertently caused the declaration of a mistrial.
In May, the case of Travis Slone vs. Linda S. Moore vs. Oscar Stidham, which circulated around the collision of a Perry County School District bus and a car, was on track to be heard by a jury.
On Friday, May 23, jury interviews had gotten underway for a jury to be chosen. Just after a recess, though, according to information obtained from a recording of the proceedings in the Perry County Courthouse, it was brought to Perry County Circuit Judge Bill Engle’s attention that Perry County Superintendent Jonathan Jett, who had not been subpoenaed for the case, had been talking with potential jurors in the hallway during the recess.
When Jett was brought forward to be questioned, he explained to Judge Engle that he had not talked about the case at all with any of the jurors. The extent of his conversations, he said, covered baseball games and questions from juror candidates, who are also district employees, as to why they were still there since they knew they could not sit on the jury.
Judge Engle said that while he believed Jett, and was sure that anything that was said was “innocent,” he could not let it slide since he had just talked to the juror candidates about not talking to anyone at all about the case and not talking to anyone who is in anyway related to the case about anything, even baseball.
Judge Engle then declared a mistrial in the case, setting another jury selection hearing for a later date. Jett was not charged with anything in the case.
Amelia Holilday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.